The selling of counterfeit goods has become one of the biggest and most gainful criminal businesses in the world.
Counterfeit products include any product bearing an unauthorized representation of a manufacturer's trademark or trade name.
Common counterfeited items include everything from designer clothes to computer software to pharmaceuticals. The following are usually associated with counterfeit products:
- Incorrect, smeared or blurred product packaging.
- Incorrect spelling of brand name.
- No warranty or guarantee available.
- Unbelievably low prices.
Counterfeit products generate hundreds of billions of dollars in sales each year, making up about 7% of all global trade.
Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 25,000 shipments of counterfeit goods that were making their way into the country. The total value of that loot: $178.9 million.
CDs and DVDs
Value of counterfeits seized: $39 million
Value of counterfeits seized: $25.3 million
Value of counterfeits seized: $15.6 million
Value of counterfeits seized: $14.8 million
Anybody could unwittingly purchase a counterfeit product or a product bearing counterfeit approval marks. These are the real victims of counterfeiting because they believe they are purchasing a legitimate product and are paying for the value they associate with that product.
While these people may be disappointed in the performance, reliability, and durability of the product, the real threat posed by many counterfeit products is in safety. If the product has not been tested and certified to meet applicable standards and does not bear legitimate approval marks, it could pose a serious fire, shock, or other hazard to the user and present a serious liability risk to retailers, distributors or others who may have supplied the product.
Some people actually choose to purchase counterfeit products under the assumption that they are paying less for products that are equal in value to the legitimate products they mimic.
People who deliberately choose to buy counterfeit products are not victims. Instead they support the criminally deceptive practices of counterfeiters by creating a built-in market for their goods.
Counterfeiting would not disappear if there were no willing consumers of counterfeit products. But in many cases, counterfeiting would be less profitable and more risky without these easy sales.
Counterfeiting can and must be combated at the source, but in a globalized world, this source is increasingly difficult to locate. The technology is widely available; for example, medicinal counterfeiting often involves nothing more than laser-printing new boxes and repackaging.
China and India are top counterfeiters because they are large countries promoting exports, and while shutting down production in either of these countries would have global impact, it would also create opportunities for criminals located elsewhere.